FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Both Fort Wainwright and Fort RichardsonWe experience problems with unwanted guests this time of year. We're not talking about visiting in-laws, but nesting birds.

Migratory swallows include both cliff and bank swallows. The cliff swallows will build mud nests under the eaves of buildings, Bank swallows will burrow into large piles of dirt. Mew gulls are commonly found in Interior Alaska during the summer months and build traditional stick nests.

These nests, once built and occupied (by chicks or eggs), cannot be removed or destroyed by mandate of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Harming a listed migratory bird (including removal of an occupied nest) could result in a violation carrying a maximum penalty of $15,000 and/or six months in jail. It is not a violation, however, to remove old nests or to prevent the birds from constructing new nests.

Returning birds will often settle into an already existing nest intact from the previous season. Consequently, it is recommended that personnel inspect their living and/or work areas for existing nests prior to arrival of the migratory swallows. Any such nests found that, when occupied, would prove an inconvenience or health hazard to occupants of that building, should be removed now before the birds arrive. It is recommended that existing nests be removed by knocking them down with high-pressure water spray.

Once the birds arrive and begin to actively build their nests, personnel must remain vigilant to ensure that nests are not built in inappropriate places. Nests that are under construction but not yet occupied by eggs or young can legally be removed. Care should be taken to remove the nests at the earliest stage possible, preferably after the placement of the first twigs or pieces of mud as the female will often lay her hard-to-see eggs before the nest is completely finished.

Swallows tend to be very persistent nest builders, often attempting to rebuild mere hours after removal of a former nest. It is thus imperative to start the removal process as early as possible and to keep removing nesting foundations as soon as they are constructed. Nests often have to be removed twice daily.

Garrison residents love our wildlife, birds included. The problems associated with birds nesting in human dwellings, however - financial damage, potential swallow bug infestations and guano-born bacteria - should not be ignored. Be proactive and do your part at keeping nests away from buildings and equipment.

If you have any questions regarding migratory birds or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in general please call the Environmental Resources Department at 384-2744.

For questions specific to nest removal on Fort Richardson please call the DPW Service Desk at 384-3664.

For questions regarding preventive materials and bird nesting problems on Fort Wainwright, contact the Natural Resources office, 361-4214.